Saab And Safety A Readers Story And Life With Saab

I posted an article a few days ago about what makes a Saab driver a Saab driver and the responses are still coming in. I had noticed a very short response from David Mills and I pushed for more of a response and he told us why safety was such a big thing to him and it was quite moving. He also has owned about 15 Saabs over time and will tell us his favorites. I felt his response should be a post on its own and asked him to write a follow up to his response. We may not always agree on everything written on SaabsUnited and that is the beauty of a site like ours, I thank David for sharing this story.

Jason Powell has asked me to write an article about my experience with Saabs, as a follow up to his article asking why we on SU buy Saabs.  Jason asked me to elaborate on my answer to his question about why I have owned so many and why I am so loyal to the brand.

I have leased, or purchased, or helped to purchase, 15 Saabs for my immediate family since 1999.  So why so many?  Primarily safety.  I think pound for pound, Saabs are the safest cars in the world.

I am a safety nut, geek, and guru, and I must confess to a car safety obsession.  I realize that most people never think about safety the way I do.  Although safety is becoming more and more part of the car purchase equation today, that has not always been the case.  And in my early years of car driving, it was hard for me to find out any information on car safety no matter how hard I tried.  I am also a car nut generally, and had car magazine subscriptions for 30 years.  But I think it is fair to say that car magazines are very deficient at giving good safety information about cars.

Unlike most people, I needed to find out about car safety because knowing car safety was crucial to my job.  I have been a personal injury lawyer for 30 plus years, always representing injured people for the last 26.  Many of my clients received their injuries in car accidents.  I needed to know why and how my clients got hurt in their car accidents.  So I have seriously studied car safety, real world accident statistics, and crash testing, because knowing about car safety in depth is part of providing quality representation for my clients.  I’ve been involved in some pretty big auto accident cases – a Ford Explorer / Firestone Tire roll-over death case was one.

But my quest for knowledge of car safety, wasn’t just out of professional necessity; car safety was also personal.  I really cared about my wife and my two daughters’ safety.  And the most likely way to get a serious injury or die if you are under 40 years of age, is in a car accident, if you live in the western world.

I first test drove a Saab in 1979 but bought an Alfa instead.  The Alfa was gorgeous and I thought the Saab was ugly even though it was a blast to drive, more fun, more power, and more room.  Had I known about how safe Saabs were in 1979, I would have bought the Saab in spite of its looks, and who knows how many Saabs I might have owned by now.  But back then information on safety was pitiful.

But in 1999, I got a second chance to buy a Saab, a 1999 9-5 and the rest is history.  I actually went to the dealer looking for a Volkswagon and ended up buying a Saab after I test drove the Saab.  After I hit the gas about a block down the street, and was grinning from ear to ear, I knew I wanted it.  I knew enough about car safety by then to be pretty sure that Saabs were safe cars, but I didn’t know how safe.  So after my first Saab, I began to investigate Saab safety, and the more I learned, the more I decided they were the brand for me.  The fun factor, the utility, the value, the good mpgs, the fact that they didn’t scream of “big money’ like Bimmers and Mercs, the overall quality, were icing on the cake.  I also liked the fact they were Swedish and not German.

As a lawyer, the most frequent comment I heard from my automobile injury clients was:  “It happened so fast, there was nothing I could do.”  Car magazines were touting active safety, but my clients were telling me, that most of the time, active safety didn’t matter near as much as passive safety.  When I saw a video online of two 9-5’s hitting head on in an offset collision and how well they held up (I had never seen anything like it) I decided Saabs were what I wanted for my family.

Later in 1999, I bought my second Saab for my oldest daughter, who was in college, a 1999 9-3.  And I just kept adding Saabs after that as my family needed them.

And now for my Saab story.  The second most frequent comment my automobile injury clients make is: “I never thought it would happen to me.”  Well, in 2002, it happened to me.  Well, not to me, but to my daughter.  She was in a very serious car accident in her 1999 9-3.  In what could have been my darkest hour, Saab was there for me.

At the time, I blogged frequently on Saabnet. A week after the accident I posted the following description of the accident on Saabnet which I will re-post in full here (with a few minor edits) because it has the freshness of very recent memory.
…………..
Submitted April 2002

A week ago yesterday night about 9pm I received a call from my daughter saying that she had been in an accident. She assured me she was ok. Fortunately she told me she was ok before she told me she had been in an accident. My daughter goes to college near Lynchburg, Va. and I live in Memphis, TN. She told me that her car (a 1999 9-3) had been totaled. I asked her what happened. She said she really didn’t know other than all of a sudden a car was in front of her and she had tried to swerve to keep from hitting it but didn’t even think she had hit the brakes before the impact had occurred. Right before she hung up she said she could see the other vehicle and she was certain that somebody in it was probably killed. The EMS got to the scene and checked her out and we got a call from EMS maybe 20 minutes later saying that she appeared to be fine but that they were taking her to the hospital for observation.

We got in touch with people from her college who went to the ER to check on her to give us progress reports. Fortunately she was released about 3am that morning and I drove to Lynchburg (in my Aero) beginning about 4 hours later.

The other driver, another woman, was not so fortunate. My daughter’s suspicions were correct. As the trooper later told me the other driver was a DRT (dead right there). Apparently the other driver was dead drunk and high on cocaine and somehow ended up headed north in the southbound lanes of traffic at night without headlights. My daughter hit her head on in a frontal offset collision and my daughter was traveling at least 60 mph. Fortunately for us, the drunk driver was in a small Daihatsu Charade which was no match for the 9-3. I later saw pictures of the Daihatsu and the damage was incredible. The steering wheel was over the center console and the trooper told me that the left front wheel was under the driver’s seat. The driver’s door was nearly off and the driver’s side of the vehicle was completely contorted. The drunk driver was killed instantly.

The trooper figured the drunk driver was also doing about 60 mph because her car ended about 100 feet north of the collision site and my daughter’s car ended up about 100 feet south.
The Saab sustained very heavy damage to the front left of the car. Both doors on the driver’s side would not open and the driver’s door was buckled at the door latch causing the driver window to blow out. But the passenger compartment stayed well in tact and the only real concern of mine was some significant intrusion into the driver footwell. The front left wheel was broken and turned 90 degrees and most of the intrusion came from the side rather than the front. This caused my daughter’s only serious injury, which was a ligament injury to her left foot. She also a badly bruised right shin. Somehow my daughter managed to pull her legs out of the way, otherwise she might have had a severe injury to her left leg. She will have to wear a moon boot for 4-6 weeks but that seems to be all that she will need. Very thankfully, she did not come close to sustaining any trauma to her head or torso.

All of the people who saw her (EMS, witnesses, troopers, doctors, classmates and professors) could not believe how well she had fared. Kudos are in order to the Saab engineers. I hope they get to read this and receive inspiration to keep up the good work. On their behalf, I got to tell a lot of people about the safety of Saabs.”
………………..
Sometime much later after the accident, my daughter confided that she had probably been going much more than 60 mph and probably more than 70 mph (it was a 55 mph speed limit) when the collision occurred.  Just prior, she had been doing 85 and had eased off the accelerator as she was coming to a town.  But it happened so fast she never got her foot off the accelerator.  Active safety wouldn’t have mattered at all.

A couple of days later she told me that she never wanted to own anything but a Saab.  And so far, she hasn’t.  Neither has my wife or my younger daughter.  Neither have I.  My oldest daughter’s husband now drives one and my youngest daughter just got married so I am hoping it won’t be long before her husband is in one as well.

I would like to say that the accident described above was the only accident that my wife and daughters have been in since we have been Saab owners.  But unfortunately, that is not the case.  They have all been in other accidents in our Saabs.  They have had three other accidents, all minor fortunately, with no injuries.  In one accident, my daughter, granddaughter and wife were all in the car.  But any of these could have been much worse.

Accidents like the serious one in 2002 have lingering consequences even when they turn out well.  Every lawyer knows this.  The 2002 accident happened the Saturday night before Easter.  Every year around Easter time, my daughter hates driving in the dark and avoids it until well past Easter.  She still complains about her foot.  But she’s alive, doing very well, and has two children of her own now (who ride in the back seats of their parents’ two 9-5s).  End of Saab story.

I told Jason I would say a few words about some of the Saabs I have owned.  My favorite was my 2003 Aero Wagon, but that is because I am a wagon guy.  I have had three wagons.  The first was a 2000 9-5 SE six and I presently drive a 2006 9-3 2.0 Sport Combi.  All are great wagons both in styling and handling but I liked the fours better than the six.  (That engine choice is true of all of the Saabs I have owned).  I find the wagons to be more front/rear balanced than the sedans so they handle surprisingly well even with the extra 170 lbs or so.  They are just so damn useful.

My favorite handling car was the 2000 9-3 coupe which, though not a Viggen, is quite fun to drive, especially after having modified the turbo.  For a four door, I think the 94 9000CDE was the most fun to drive, but we bought it used and the prior owner was clueless about how to take care of a Saab and we paid for it.  My fastest car was a 2001 Aero 9-5 sedan that would just absolutely fly.  And I am sure like most people here, I would love to see Saab bring back the hatchbacks.  We had several 9-3 hatchbacks and they simply are far more useful than a four-door sedan, and from a safety point of view, a better design.  I regret not ever getting a Viggen and I am sure my wife regrets not ever getting a convertible.  Maybe someday.

I am pulling for Saab to survive.  My whole family is.  Because Saab was there for us, we have been there for Saab.  Yes I bitch about Saab not getting on its feet again and not getting an owner worthy of it.  But, I will be there for Saab as long as I am around, and as long as Saab is making safe cars.  My real hope is that Saab is around long after I am, and that it continues its safety heritage and legacy, and that it will still be there for my kids and grandkids, just in case a dark hour is in their future.

JerseySaab
Member
4 years 10 months ago
It happened to me too. Some years ago I was involved in a nasty high-speed collision with a large SUV while driving a 1986 Saab 900. The car was pretty much twisted into a pretzel, except that if you looked closely you could see the passenger cage was still intact. I got out of the car and walked away with no injuries. (The cop that arrived at the accident scene clearly was looking at me and back at the car thinking to himself “Why am I not calling the meat wagon for this guy?”) That “lowly” base-model 900 hatchback saved… Read more »
Jonas Axelsson
Member
4 years 10 months ago
I too have had many Saabs from mid 1980 on. My initial impression of Saab and safety came from the old pictures of Erik Carlsson rolling sideways down a ski jump and then opening all the doors. Some years after purchasing our 1995 ng 900, quite frankly I feel raped, been had and screwed. After reading the forums finding out that the off-set frontal crashes in these cars was deadly and far below par, the reputation for safety was undeserved. My daughter was “out there” in a 9-5 so there was some relief but my son? I should have checked… Read more »
skwdenyer
Member
4 years 10 months ago
Rather sad, but sums up my feelings, too. My latest daily driver C900 has just munched its gearbox (sounds like a pinion bearing – basically the end of the car), and I need to think about what to buy next. NG900s are so cheap, yet… I, and my family, have owned dozens of Saabs, starting with a 95 Estate (Wagon to some of you) in the early 1970s. Thankfully, we’ve only had one big accident in all those miles (about 3/4 of a million Saab miles between us now), and my old 99 (my first car) protected me beautifully from… Read more »
davidgmills
Member
4 years 10 months ago
If real world statistics mean anything to you, the GM Saabs have done extraordinary in the United States. The Insurance Institute for Highways Safety (IIHS) has for the last ten years or so rated cars for their personal injury claims and medical payment claims. These are injury claims are for the drivers and passengers of cars. I have watched Saabs rated for every single year for the last ten or so, and every single time, with perhaps only one borderline exception, the 9-3s and 9-5s have rated substantially higher than average in safety. Very few cars get this rating and… Read more »
Jonas Axelsson
Member
4 years 10 months ago
10 years, and that is the point, they dropped the ball back with the ng cars. I am comfortable with the data on the current crop on cars but would never recommend any others. There was a classic 900 that I did not buy. I noticed the paint on the roof was scuffed a bit. The gal then imparted that when she slid, hitting the grass medium at 70 mph, put it on the roof for a long slide. She said she replaced a single mirror and never bothered with the roof. Why didn’t I buy the car? It wasn’t… Read more »
Jonas Axelsson
Member
4 years 10 months ago

By “any others”, I meant the ng series. Were the early 9-3 (pre 2003), better than the 1994 onward?

davidgmills
Member
4 years 10 months ago

The 99- 02 models were very safe. Did pretty well in crash tests but not as good as the 03. However, in the real world I think the 99-02’s were better, getting IIHS grades very close to the 9-5 which the 03 model never did.

There is something about the hatchback design that is superior to a sedan when it comes to safety. More like a wagon I guess and wagons usually do better than sedans.

davidgmills
Member
4 years 10 months ago
Dump the Mercedes 190. It isn’t close to being a Saab. Yes it is true that some of the older Saabs (not just the GM ones) didn’t do all that well in the government and insurance crash tests. But what you must understand is that there are only a few government and insurance crash tests and if ones’ goal is to do well in a particular test, it can be done. But Saab was doing forty crash tests on its cars not four or five. And in the real world, Saab was way out performing what the crash tests indicate… Read more »
Jonas Axelsson
Member
4 years 10 months ago
Dump it? It was totaled when the farmer down the road pulled out in front of me. It sent that truck of his doing cart wheels across a pasture. It was a severe hit. The crumple zones did fine, the air bags knocked me cold and between those and the belts, I survived. Data point to data point the ng would have killed me. Sorry, but they were horrible and when I saw the films a few years ago I was in shock. I am comfortable with our current 2008 and 2009 9-3’s. All of my criticism is directed at… Read more »
davidgmills
Member
4 years 10 months ago

Give me the years and I will get you the IIHS real world data and feel very confident I will prove you wrong. The 190 had really bad data, I remember that. Glad it held up for you.

davidgmills
Member
4 years 10 months ago

Actually I found the info on Folksam which rates the cars as if they were competing with all of the cars on the road. Both the 190 from 83-93 and the 900 from 79-93 and 94-98 are all listed as having average safety. Of course they are competing with much more modern cars which are much safer than the older ones. So we were both wrong. The 190 wasn’t that much worse of better than the 900. Check it out.

http://www.folksam.se/polopoly_fs/1.11226!/webbversioneng_R6546.pdf

davidgmills
Member
4 years 10 months ago

It was the C class that was such a disappointment, not the 190.

davidgmills
Member
4 years 10 months ago

I have also noticed looking at the Folksam website, Volvos do much better in Sweden than they do in the US. IIHS doesn’t give Volvo these kinds of scores.

Jonas Axelsson
Member
4 years 10 months ago
There is NO frontal crash rating by Folksam on the 190 Mercedes so it could not be compared to the ng 900 which got only two stars. I distinctly remember the US reported frontal crash information which put it at the top for small Euro sedans. It involved a very heated conversation with my former rally partner who bought a GTI. His point was that ability to evade would negate crash values and his quote, “I buy a car to drive it and not crash it”, had I listened would prove fatal. The fellow pulled from his driveway right in… Read more »
rune
Member
4 years 10 months ago
davidgmills, I started digging at those Folksam numbers… In 2007, the 9-5 got 30%+, the V70 got 20-30% (safer than avg) score. 2009, they both were awarded with the 30%+ top score in 2011… They reversed the 2007 score. Now the OG 9-5 is 20-30% and the old V70 is 30%+. I asked one of the Folksam guys, and he told me that the old 9-5 still scores pretty high (upper end of the 20-30% scala). He could not offer me any examples of a V70 hitting a 9-5, and what is left now is try to sift through whatever… Read more »
davidgmills
Member
4 years 10 months ago
Rune: I don’t doubt the V70 is a very safe car. The IIHS data on the V70 always show it to be substantially safer then average. But this is not the case for the S60 and S80 which the IIHS has always had in the safer than average category (and sometimes even being average). But as I said, there never was this difference between sedan and wagon with a Saab 9-5. Both always scored in the low 50s, which is where the V70 scored. So I am surprised to see Folksam data differ somewhat. According to IIHS data, 9-3 and… Read more »
rune
Member
4 years 10 months ago
david, there is one other thing to consider wrt Folksam. I was told that in case of Volvo “it is a combined score for S80, S60 and V70 that lays the foundation for the score. Mostly V70 followed by S60.”. I hope I translated that correctly, because I did not expect such an approach. Glancing over my e-mail conversation with Folksam, I realize now that it was the S80’s score that I was comparing with the 9-5 some months ago. It is the S80 that has gradually snuck past the 9-5. If IIHS’ data is any indication, then the S80… Read more »
golfhunter
Member
4 years 10 months ago

We had at Saabhuy a similar story , back in 72 with a 96
http://saab.skynetblogs.be/archive/2009/01/02/temoignage-choc-frontal-en-saab-96.html

Jonas Axelsson
Member
4 years 10 months ago
That is exactly what the Mercedes 190 looked like after the crash. One problem however, on a snow day the Mercedes would have never left the driveway. It goes down as perhaps the worst car I have ever driven in snow. Despite the nice Michelin all season tires anything slippery would just overwhelm it. My thought the next day was like with an MG I had. A hood, fenders, bumpers, a radiator and supports and @ the 10% buyback from the insurance company along with sweat equity, it will roll again. Then I got on my belly and looked at… Read more »
saabguy70
Member
4 years 10 months ago

This is the: The Saab Networks- Saab Saves Lives Page.

http://www.saabnet.com/tsn/ssl/

“To crash with a Volvo is extremely safe. If you’re sitting in a Saab.”

Here is crashed saab 96 v4 in UK!

http://www.saab-v4.co.uk/images/crash/gallery.htm

Osama Dajani
Member
4 years 10 months ago
This is to SAAB Engineers: In SAAB front offset crash test demo, the demo shows that SAAB could handle a front offset crash of 60 mph for each car that would be involved in an accident, so the if the velocity of both cars is aggregated, then SAAB could handle (60 + 60= 120 mph). My concern is, if a SAAB car was travelling at almost 150 mph, and another SAAB car also travelling at the same speed 150 mph, and if both cars hit it each in a front offset accident, God Forbid, Could SAAB handle a front offset… Read more »
martinsaab
Member
4 years 10 months ago

Sorry, but two cars doing 60 mph is NOT equal to one car doing 120!
One car doing 120 would be the fourfold of energy compared to one car doing 60.
Two cars doing 60 is the twofold energy of one car doing 60.

martinsaab
Member
4 years 10 months ago

This means two cars crashing head-on at 60 is equal to one car head-on against a concrete wall at 60.
NOT equal to one car against a wall at 120!!!

davidgmills
Member
4 years 10 months ago

Absolutely right. In fact hitting a concrete wall at 60 mph is usually worse in that it has no give and secondly there is no chance of skipping off to the side and going beyond the point of impact.

Red J
Member
4 years 10 months ago
Osama, I’m sorry but I get the impression that you are confusing mph with kph. But even if you are really talking about mph (60 mph = 96,6 kph; 150 mph = 241,4 kph), at any velocity the impact velocity is alway lower than the approaching velocity as we humans try everything to avoid the accident, even use the brakes, but on the other side at speeds over 200 kph the kinetic energy of a car is more than 4 times higher than at 100 kph or more than 8 times higher then driving at 50 kph, or putting it… Read more »
Osama Dajani
Member
4 years 10 months ago
Red J, Thanks, I’m referring to (150mph, which is equivalent to almost 240 Kph), the maximum velocity which a car could travel at, as scaled and marked on a car’s speedometer. SAAB tends to somehow change the driving style of people, and tend to somehow tempt people to become somehow reckless in driving, and would have the anxiety to see the need of speedometer rotate at 180 degree or more, flat 180 Kph and even more. This is also apparent in hard acceleration from standstill 0Kph, to max speed 240 kph, and vice versa. In terms of active safety, could… Read more »
martinsaab
Member
4 years 10 months ago

If you have enough crumple-zone on a car, you could.
BUT: Going 240kph is equal to 66.66 m/second.
Assuming that 20 G are fatal (mos sources on the net say 14 G are fatal),
you would need
s = 1/2 * v * v / a = 1/2 * 66.66 * 66.66 / 20 = 15.9 meters of crumple zone!!!
😉

martinsaab
Member
4 years 10 months ago

Typo… here’s the correct one:
s = 1/2 * v * v / a = 1/2 * 66.66 * 66.66 / 200 = 15.9 meters
Divide by 200 (as 20 G is equal to 200 m/s^2)

Jonas Axelsson
Member
4 years 10 months ago

Osama is treating cars like “I beams” as measures of strength. The proper way to look at protection is not from how strong the car is,,but how it deforms and crumples around the cabin.

Chris Hansel
Member
4 years 10 months ago
Jason: I don’t need any crash test data about Saabs. I buy Saabs because one saved my life in 2003. I was driving along a county road in the U.S. when a pickup pulled out of a side road. I had about 1/2 second to impact. I was doing 45 mph. I hit the pickup at 40 mph. I walked away from the crash 10 minutes later. My 2001 Saab 9-3 died do that I might live. I still have his front emblem, and owner manuel. We called him Zippy, and I now call every Saab I buy Zippy III,… Read more »
sandycapp
Member
4 years 10 months ago

WOW! After reading all this, I’m even more glad that I have my gorgeous 9-5 sitting on the drive. Now am off to Reading Saab to buy some winter rubber.

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